Five Reasons Why My Writing Sucks (Or Five Things I Need to Improve On)

Number One :  It’s not for everyone.  I’m a YA writer, and I know that not everyone likes YA Fiction.  I like to think that my novella, Piercing Through the Darkness, is for all types of readers.  In fact, hardly any Young Adults have read it (that I know of at least).  But, my current work in progress is YA.  It’s about a high school senior who is being terrorized by her parents’ murderer.  So, I know that it doesn’t always work for everyone.  (I’m not limited to YA though.  My short stories tend to be more adult-oriented. Just had to throw that in there. ;))

Number Two : I feel like I don’t add enough description of my settings, and especially characters, at times.  When I’m writing, I know what everything looks like, so I have a hard time remembering to let other people in on the secret.  Description is just as important as believable characters and a good plot.

Number Three : I’m bad about using filter words.  (This also relates to number two.)  Filter words are varieties of these phrases.

  • to see, to hear ,to think, to touch, to wonder, to realize, to watch, to look, to seem, to feel (or feel like), can, to decide, to sound (or sound like), to know

(Read, Are These Filter Words Weakening Your Fiction from Write It Sideways.  It’s definitely worthwhile!  That’s where I borrowed this list.)

As she says in her post, they weaken your fiction.  I have actually started filtering my filter words, so my writing is improving.  I have to be careful though.

Number Four :  My characters can get a bit chatty.  I love dialogue, but I have to watch out.  I have a difficult time making sure my characters don’t talk too much.  Although, it’s hard not to make your characters somewhat chatty when there’s a psychiatrist involved…

Finally… Number Five : I have a problem with overusing the word just.  Here’s an example taken from my current WIP:

Landon tries changing the subject to trivial things such as the win our high school football team pulled off last night and how he dreads writing the English paper.  We all try to keep the conversation going, but it just isn’t working out.

Our food comes, and we busy ourselves with eating.  Well, mostly I just pick at my food.  I eat a few bites because Christian stares at me until I give in.  I start to feel sick again, so I push my plate away.  He looks at me, but this time I don’t give in to him.  I just can’t force myself to eat another bite.

I keep thinking about what is going on in my life.  It has all just turned to a jumbled mess.  I have not only told the one secret that can get me killed, my brother hates me and Landon and Christian, who happen to be best friends, are hardly talking to each other.  I’m tearing our group apart.

Sometimes, I feel like the word just is important to the sentence, but I have to make sure I don’t use it all of the times.  The last thing I want to do is beat my readers over the head with repetition.

Believe it or not, I’m not just downing my fiction (look, I just used just…twice. ;)).  I want to make sure that I know what’s wrong with my WIP in order to make it better and more enjoyable by all (Well, the people who will read it at least.).   With my top five reasons my writing sucks, I can take away what is bad about it and make it good.  Hopefully.

20 thoughts on “Five Reasons Why My Writing Sucks (Or Five Things I Need to Improve On)

  1. Hm.

    1) Your writing isn’t for everyone? And this is a problem? For one thing, the most popular genre today is YA, by a wide margin. So, maybe it is for everyone. If not, then you’re in pretty good company. After all, Ulysses, Gravity’s Rainbow, Lolita, and Naked Lunch are probably not for everyone either. 🙂

    2) I leave out a lot of description. I learned that listening to radio drama. Let the readers use their imaginations. (This can be taken too far, obviously, and I do describe the things and people which are unusual.)

    3) I don’t think I agree that filter words weaken fiction. Too many of them, yes, but I don’t think it’s even as much of an issue as passive voice, and that’s useful sometimes, too. (And, frankly, I find both of the examples in the post to be somewhat awkward — just awkward in different ways.)

    As for the others, yes, tell your characters to keep it brief, and watch out for “just.” (My weakness, or at least one of them, is overusing “obviously,” as a helpful reader pointed out once.)

    When I get home I will buy your novella, BTW.

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    1. I appreciate that, Anthony. I am seriously going to read your novel, but I have got to find the time. (If I could read it on my Android Tablet, it’d be so much easier! haha) Anyway, I don’t suppose it’s a huge problem not being for everyone. I’d just like to think it is. 😉
      Also, I like the idea of letting the readers use their imagination. (Too much flowery detailing drives me crazy anyway.)
      As for the others, all very good points. Thanks🙂

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      1. Which novel are you trying to read and why are you assuming you can’t read it on your Android Tablet?😉 (Not that I know anything about Android or tablets, so I guess I could be wrong, but this may be solvable.)

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      2. As for U-town, one suggestion (which doesn’t depend on wifi) is to start with A Sane Woman instead. It’s shorter, and there’s an HTML version designed especially for the Kindle that I assume you could also load onto your tablet (not that I know about such things from experience, but I’m assuming/guessing/hoping). You can get it here:
        http://u-town.com/jansleet/?p=67

        Plus, you’d be reading them in their proper order, like reading The Hobbit before Lord of the Rings, rather than afterwards.

        Anyway, that’s one suggestion.

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  2. Ooh, what a negative piece of public self-talk!

    May I suggest that you amend the title to “Five Things I Need to Improve in My Writing?” I mean, if you’re going to focus on defects, wouldn’t it be better to do so from within a more positive framing? With this post, you are not saying that there are just five things you need to work on; the very foundation of this post says that your writing sucks, and here are the five worst ways it sucks. I don’t see how that is a healthy or beneficial perspective from which to view your writing–nor am I inclined to believe it’s particularly accurate.

    Also, I agree with Anthony. I don’t think filter words are as big a sin as Holly seems to think they are, and I much prefer a light touch with description in fiction. In fact, I find myself tending to skip over paragraphs of detailed description when an author makes a habit of writing it. I also adore loads of dialogue.

    Cut yourself some slack, give yourself some love. You don’t deserve this.

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      1. I didn’t mean for it to be negative. Actually, I was hoping it would come off as more witty. Ooops.

        I’m glad that others think that filter words aren’t that big of a sin. In my writing workshop in college, I was told that I had to watch out for those. It’s been kind of beat into my mind that they are horrible.

        As far as the description, maybe it’s not as bad as I assume. haha.

        Thanks for helping me see things more positively, Leanne. 🙂

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  3. You know, if those are the only five things about your writing that “sucks”, you’re in pretty good shape.🙂

    1. I don’t think that being YA is a negative thing at all. As Anthony said, it’s pretty much the biggest growing genre/classification today. And if your books not appealing to everyone was considered a weakness, even people like Stephen King would be considered to suck.

    2. Description is over-rated. I skip over description in almost everything I read so I can get to the actual story. Sure, it’s important to know if the character has wings or purple fur all over his body, but does it really matter what colour his eyes are? Only if it’s relevant to the plot. Trust the reader to be able to use her imagination.

    3. Filter words. Like everything else in writing/life/the universe, they can be overdone. I don’t think they’re ALWAYS bad, but I think removing them when they’re not necessary does make your writing stronger. The good thing is that you don’t have to do that while you’re writing. That’s a really simple fix during editing.

    4. Chatty characters rock, and as Anthony said in one of his recent posts, dialogue can reveal more about a character than a page of exposition. (At least, that’s one of the things that I took from Anthony’s post!) Again, you can also trim anything unnecessary when you edit, but I vote you leave in as much chattiness when you’re writing as possible.🙂

    5. Hah. We all have one of those words. Mine is ‘moment’. People are always doing things for a moment or in a moment. =He held his breath for a moment. Then he pushed open the door and walked through. A moment later he was standing in front of the fireplace. In just a moment, his mother would arrive.= Ick. Again, though, it’s just an editing issue, not a writing issue.

    As I said to start with, if those are you’re only problems, you’re pretty much awesome.🙂

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    1. I’m sure there’s more about my writing that “sucks” I just didn’t want to over do it. 😉
      A lot has to do with editing issues, but even in my edits, I have a hard time cutting dialogue. Filter words, well, I’m better at editing them out because I am used to it by now. As far as the YA thing, I just want to be liked by all.😉 And, I’m glad I’m in good company with the (lack of) description and overusing a single word.
      Also, I’d like to think I’m awesome!

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  4. I think everybody has favorite words that they overuse (though it can be different words at different times). Sometimes, as we’ve been discussing over at Laura Stanfill’s blog, it can be punctuation, too. (http://laurastanfill.wordpress.com/) (my weakness is parentheses — I try to limit them in my fiction though I let them do what they want in my blog posts) (and in comments)

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  5. ARR! You just hit on all 5 of my baddies. But, once you know your trouble spots, you can blast away at them in revisions. I will do a word search for a side character’s first mention, and figure out a good description. Then I’ll search for the next scene they’re mentioned and remind the reader with a detail or two. Then the third scene, with a briefer reminder. (Is briefer a word?)

    It sounds SOOO mechanical and un-magical when I say it like this, doesn’t it? Are we writers ruining it for our readers by telling them how the sausage gets made?🙂

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    1. Thanks for adding me your blog roll!

      I think that too. Once we know what we’re having difficulties with, we can go back and edit. It’s like what Laura Stanfill said on the guest post she wrote for me about The Art of Revision. https://ebarnes23.wordpress.com/2011/06/30/laura-stanfill-discusses-the-art-of-revision/
      She broke the revision of her novel down into problems so she could fix them.
      I do that with the description of my characters as well. It’s sometimes easy to forget, even for me, what the minor characters look like. (And, briefer sounds like a good word to me.)
      Also, I hope we aren’t ruining it for our readers. Let’s hope that they understand the hard work we go through to make our works “readable” and “enjoyable” for them. 🙂

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      1. I have a friend who’s a professional writer (since 1972) and he just wrote a YA paranormal romance (of course). Before he wrote the first word, he knew how many drafts there would be, what each one would accomplish, which issues he would let slide each time for a later rewrite, and who would critique it and when (and why). Clearly he was thinking in terms of setting goals and focusing on different problems at different times. His approach was quite educational for me.

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      2. Wow. That’s a really structured way to plan and write a novel. I imagine that after writng professionally for 40 years, though, you’d have a very good idea of how to get the best out of your writing.

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